Chesterton Tribune

Water mains popping in Town of Chesterton

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The rash of water main breaks on Broadway in Chesterton—two on Monday between 17th and 18th streets, one today between Fifth and Sixth streets—is “not totally unusual,” an Indiana-American Water Company (IAWC) spokesman told the Chesterton Tribune.

There are generally two seasonal waves of main break, Terry Atherton explained: one in the winter, due to the frost load; and then another in the summer, due to “high demand.”

“A lot of water rushing through the system at velocity suddenly hits a dead end somewhere,” Atherton said. “We call it a water hammer. It’s basically a pressure wave set in motion in the main. It bounces back and forth, like a wave in the lake.”

That pressure wave can cause a main to break in one place, Atherton said, “and one break can cause a couple of other places in the main to pop.”

Main breaks, generally speaking, are not altogether rare, Atherton added. IAWC fixes roughly 360 every year.

As a matter of routine, residents of the affected neighborhoods have been notified directly of a boil advisory—not an order, an advisory—by door hanger, Atherton noted. That advisory is issued as a precaution and is mandated by the Indiana Department of Environmental Management when water pressure in the system falls below 20 pounds per square inch, on the slight possibility that contaminants in a home’s pipes could be sucked into the larger system by the unequal pressure—“back siphonage,” Atherton called it—and then distributed through the system at large when the pressure is equalized.

“The advisory is just precautionary,” however, Atherton emphasized. “We have no reason to believe there’s any contamination.”

Unless residents are directly notified to the contrary, the boil advisory will expire “typically in 24 hours,” Atherton said.

IAWC has taken water samples for testing.

Atherton did add that the “long-term solution” to water main breaks is to replace the older pipe. It’s unlikely such will be done to the Broadway main next year—the company’s 2011 work plan is pretty much filled—but it is possible that it could be replaced in 2012.

Posted 8/31/2010